Lift Industry Safety
Lift Industry Safety
In June 2011 ETU member Simon Dimech was finalising the installation of a new Kone lift at Crown when, without warning, the lift went down. Simon’s head was squashed between the landing and the roof of the lift. A workmate held his head together while another pinned him down to prevent Simon from standing up.
Simon suffered and survived horrific injuries. But despite this terrible ordeal, safety standards in the lift industry were allowed by the major companies to remain sub-standard.
Fast forward to mid-2012 and another ETU member is performing a routine safety procedure on a Kone lift. He turned off the switch to isolate the power and the lift incorrectly simulated a power failure and immediately operated as in an emergency and shot up to the next floor.
It was time to bring safety in the lift industry up to scratch.
ETU Health and Safety Officers, David Tuddenham and Kris Gregrix plotted out the strategy with organiser Mick Montebello and stewards and delegates from sites across Melbourne before launching the campaign.
ETU members and OH&S reps in the industry began having a good look down lift shafts and on 28 August, an ETU Safety Alert was issued to raise awareness of lift companies employing workers without appropriate licences for high risk installation work inside lift wells.
Within hours, there were 30 cease-works across Melbourne construction sites.
On 4 September, a further five ETU Safety Alerts (relating to: rescue and retrieval, lift-well pit access, working on or near live electrical equipment, working on top of lift car and working from a suspended work platform), were issued.
These Safety Alerts caused 179 cease-works in construction, and 104 in the service industry.
Bosses caught napping
The speed of the campaign and its impact caught the lift industry by surprise. They’d been sitting on their arses for so long overseeing unsafe work practices they didn’t know what had hit them. The industry tried sending scare letters to building owners and developers, trying to water-down legitimate safety concerns, and claiming that construction costs would go up.
The ETU Safety Unit then spent the next three weeks conducting a systematic review of all relevant Australian and European Standards in order to come up with a plan of action and practical solutions to get safety in the industry right once and for all.
Some companies accepted the need for change and grasped the opportunity to bring their safety procedures into line with the ETU Alerts.
However, other companies continued to drag the chain. Of the 283 cease works across construction and service in Victoria WorkSafe were only called in on five occasions.
But the horse had already bolted, and WorkSafe had given in-principle agreement to the safety concerns raised by our ETU Alerts.
WorkSafe Steps In
On 24 September, WorkSafe convened a forum with the four major lift companies – Otis, Schindler, Kone, and ThyssenKrupp – the Master Builders Association, Victorian Safety Alliance, Energy Safe Victoria, the Australian Elevator Association, CFMEU , AMWU and ETU.
The forum discussed the safety risks described in the Alerts, and agreed that they would no longer be tolerated.
Another hard-fought win
The days of doing lift work without appropriate risk controls in place are gone for good.
And that’s the result of the tight disciplined action and leadership of our 1200 members in the lift industry and the diligence of the ETU Health and Safety Officers and organisers.
Advice for members
Make sure you are familiar with the contents of the Safety Alerts issued by the ETU. These Alerts cover:
- Lift installation licensing requirements
- Rescue and retrieval
- Lift-well pit access
- Working on or near live electrical equipment
- Working on top of lift car
- Working from a suspended lift plaftorm
These Alerts are available to download from the ETU’s web site at: etuvic.com.au/ohs-alerts
The Bottom Line
No SWMS*? No Work!
No Handrails? No Work!
No Rescue Retrieval Plan? No Work!
*(Safe Work Method Statement)